Chicago-area residents wait for word from Haiti

January 14, 2010 5:11:00 AM PST
Many people in the Chicago area are waiting for word about their loved ones who are in Port-au-Prince, Haiti.Families throughout the area are reaching out any way they can. They're still waiting for word, jumping at every phone call, email and text. They're also using social networking sites like Facebook to try to connect and get information. They're hoping friends and relatives survived and are just having a hard time calling the U.S.

On the North Side, Valerie Sylvestre and Gregory Sanon view every earthquake video online hoping to spot missing relatives.

"I still don't know who's hurt in my family so there is no communication for me to contact anybody," said Sanon.

And once Sanon saw the palace, he knew his brother, aunts and uncles were nearby. They live a half mile away from there.

Sylvest's 79-year-old grandmother, cousins and family friends live north of Port-au-Prince. She has started the search by posting her cousin's picture on Facebook.

"I'm hoping someone, somewhere can recognize and respond and say, 'I've seen him and he's okay,'" said Sylvestre.

After watching the news, faith is what Jean Ternier and his wife, Memose, have leaned on. They have not heard from their brothers, sister and other relatives.

"I want them to be okay. I don't want them to die," Memose said Ternier.

"I know, somehow, God going to show the way and help us to come out of it," said Ternier.

In another house on Chicago's North Sde, DePaul University Professor Nadia Andre helps her children with home work and waits for her sister to call from Haiti. Her sister, mother and niece were okay at first but then the aftershocks hit.

"Somebody could be fine, and then after the third, fourth, fifth aftershock they might be injured," said Professor Andre.

Slowly, survival stories are reaching the U.S.

Daniel Hyppolite's grandfather survived. "Very much relieved, very happy. I dreaded the thought that something bad had happened to my grandpa or his wife," said Hyppolite.

Mallory Holding, a parishioner of St. Mark's Episcopal Church in Glenn Ellyn, is spending a year in Haiti helping the poor. She is okay and has been camping in a tent. Paul Tyska of Wilmette who was on a trip with other students from a Florida college is okay as well.

Naperville woman raises money for Haitian orphanage

A west suburban woman with ties to a Haitian orphanage is leading an effort to help earthquake survivors.

Naperville resident Patty Meyer has devoted many years to raising money to build an orphanage and church in Haiti. On Wednesday night, she participated in a prayer session for the victims at Wheatland Salem United Methodist Church. She learned Wednesday that the orphanage and church she help build were destroyed in the earthquake.

"I see all of those photos of what's going on now and you think it cannot get any worse. It is absolutely more than my mind can take in, what the streets are like now and where do they go from here?" said Meyer.

Meyer says workers safely removed all of the children from the orphanage before the collapse. Her church is now trying to figure out what they can do to help victims.

The State Department Operations Center has set up the following number for Americans seeking information about family members in Haiti: 1-888-407-4747.

Chicago-area nurses stuck in Haiti

A group of nurses from the Chicago area was due to return home from Haiti Wednesday but have now been thrust into the recovery efforts. They were there on a relief mission and all survived the quake.

Their family members are anxiously awaiting word on they might be able to return home.

Terry O'Brien of Glenview was watching the news Wednesday afternoon for any information he can get on Haiti. He is constantly on the telephone awaiting word from his wife Stacy who is with a group of 24 women from the area who have been on a medical relief mission. His wife was able to talk to him briefly when they got hold of a satellite phone.

"She said what she witnessed was dismemberments, death, children, babies, and she could give very little comfort. Because, again, not being a doctor, it was overwhelming for her," said O'Brien.

O'Brien says his wife has sent him messages about the devastation.

"She is stuck in the mountains. The 24 people are hunkered down in a place that did not collapse. And just because you didn't feel it or touch it, it's there. And not only thoughts and prayers but they're going to need aid and help. There are Americans who can't travel or can't get out of there. And our group is one of those. Certainly our loved ones, many, many more, that need help as well," said O'Brien.

O'Brien says he fears for the safety of his wife and the other women on the medical mission.

The nurses are in the country as part of a group called The Little by Little Haiti Medical Mission. Two are on staff at children's memorial hospital. All are OK but there is concern about what lies ahead.

"My biggest concern for them is that they're going to have to figure out how to traverse Port-Au-Prince and be able to get out of Haiti," said Mary Gomez, nurse, Children's Memorial Hospital.

O'Brien says the ordeal has been very difficult on his three daughters.

"My role right now is to be there for them. I love them dearly. The last thing you ever want to do is see your children in any fear or pain. And we're blessed that she's safe and so many people will not get that phone call and they're safe. And by the same token we need to make sure she gets back home and back to her loved ones," said O'Brien.

O'Brien says he was apprehensive about his wife going to Haiti. He was concerned about her safety. But, at the same time, it was something she really wanted to do. He says she has a calling and needs to help people.

Text messages, Internet best ways to communicate

Some quake survivors and Americans wanting to know about their loved ones are finding the best way to communicate is through text messages or online through social networking sites.

Updates are filling sites like Twitter and Facebook. Someone on the island, identified as "Ram-Haiti," writes, "I see bodies buried in rubble...there are going to be food, medical supply and water issues."

"Isabelle Morse" says, "After the first shock I saw people running outside screaming...the only thing that came to my mind was please don't be the end of the world."

Survivors are also uploading pictures of the destruction with their cell phones.

Chicagoan "Daniel Hyppolite" posted on Alan Krashesky's Facebook page that he finally heard the good news from his grandfather that he's ok.

Facebook groups are also popping up -- one called "Help for Haiti" posted pictures of a crushed car.

Many people who want to help are wondering what can they do. Several aid organizations have set up ways to donate money to people in need. You can do this by sending text messages on your cell phone or PDA.

Texting "HAITI" to 90999 will send a $10 donation to the Red Cross. And texting "YELE" to 501501 sends $5 to a Haitian relief organization set up by singer Wyclef Jean.

ABC 7 has also reached out to several people in our area through our ABC7 Twitter page and Facebook, hoping to connect with them about their loved ones. If someone you know is in Haiti, send us a message so we can reach out to them.